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Safety inside and outside the house

Injuries to children can be prevented by taking some simple steps towards making your home safe and teaching kids basic playground and road rules

Safety at home

The home is the most common place for children to be injured. Electrical sockets, poisons, furniture, blind cords and water can all become potential hazards - often quite suddenly.

Inquisitive and adventurous young children don't have a full understanding of the consequences of their actions. Luckily most injuries are predictable and preventable through supervision and by taking some simple safety precautions.

Falls

Falls are the major cause of toddler injury. Here are some tips to prevent your child from getting injured:

  • pad sharp corners of furniture or round them off
  • use barrier gates or lock doors to stop your child going into dangerous places
  • don’t use bunk beds with toddlers
  • use straps in the high chair and pusher
  • don’t leave young children alone on change tables, high chairs and other furniture
  • teach your toddlers how to climb down as they are learning to climb up.

Burns and scalds

Children under 4-years-old but especially those aged between 1 and 2, are most at risk of burns and scalds due to their increased mobility and natural curiosity.

Safety steps to prevent burns and scalds include:

  • keep hot things well back from the edge of tables
  • turn saucepan handles away from the edge of the stove and use a stove guard
  • use placemats instead of tablecloths
  • have short or curly electric cords that don’t hang over the side of benches
  • remember that many toddlers can light matches and lighters and unscrew the globes of the Christmas tree lights
  • to prevent scalding, install a tempering valve that delivers hot water to your bathroom at 50° C
  • always run cold water into the bath first before turning on the hot water
  • use fireguards for open fires and radiators
  • install an Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker in your fuse box.

Poisoning

Toddlers explore everywhere they can reach and put things into their mouths. They cannot understand poison signs.

Common products that can be poisonous to your child include prescription medicines, cough and cold preparations, paracetamol, oral contraceptives and topical antiseptics. Other risks include products for cleaning, and gardening as well as insecticides, perfumes, paint, plants and insects.

Poisoning can occur through swallowing, skin contact, inhalation or eye contact.

Here are some tips to prevent your child being poisoned:

  • keep kitchen and laundry detergents out of reach. They are best kept in a locked cupboard. Dishwasher powder is particularly dangerous
  • use a child proof medicine cupboard for all medicines (including oral contraceptives) that is at least 1.5 metres above ground level
  • lock garden products away
  • keep poisons in their original, labelled containers
  • never put poisons into food or drink containers
  • check that the plants in your garden are not poisonous.

In an emergency call the Poisons Information Centre on 131 126.

Choking

Babies love to put everything in their mouths, but even when your child is older some small objects should be kept out of reach, including coins, magnets and button batteries. Foods like peanuts, bones, raw carrot and apple are the main cause of choking in young children.

  • check there are no small objects or coins lying around
  • don’t give your child hard pieces of food to chew such as raw carrot - give cooked or grated vegetables
  • toddlers should sit still when eating and you should stay with them until they finish eating
  • never give toddlers peanuts or other nuts
  • don’t force your children to eat anything they don’t want
  • tie plastic bags with a knot in the middle so that they cannot be put over your child’s head
  • cords or ribbons on toys, dummies and clothing should be short so they can’t choke your child
  • cords on curtains and blinds need to be short or out of reach
  • replace dummies before they are worn
  • some antique cots are not safe for young children.

Drowning

Most children who drown are under 4-years-old. Drowning happens very quickly and quietly. Young children can drown in only a few centimetres of water. Teaching your toddler to swim will not prevent drowning.

  • stay with your children whenever they are near or in water, such as the bath, paddle pool or buckets
  • keep a lid on nappy buckets and keep them out of reach
  • water can collect in all sorts of things after rain, make sure you empty them
  • always ensure that the paddle pool is emptied after use
  • all other pools should be fenced, with a self-closing and locking gate.

Read more about water safety for children.

Play

Toys are fun, and important for children’s development but badly made or age inappropriate toys can cause injuries. Always select sturdy, age appropriate toys that comply with the Australian standards. It may also helpful to keep an eye on product recalls and safety alerts.

Parents should always:

  • check toys and equipment regularly for sharp edges, splinters and loose parts
  • ensure that the surface under climbing frames and swings is soft
  • toys for young children should not have small loose parts that can be broken off and swallowed
  • store toys for play at a low level so the children can reach them easily without the need to climb
  • when a toy is labelled “not suitable for children under 3” it means there are small parts that may be a choking hazard
  • regularly check the condition of toys and throw out any you think are no longer safe
  • baby walkers often cause injuries and should not be used.

Adapted from: Parenting SA, Government of South Australia 1996-1999

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